On September 2, I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe was released in paperback. It's one of my absolute favorite reads this year, taken a spot on my forever favorites shelf and is a perfect example of why I love historical fiction so much.
To celebrate, we had something special planned. First, Erin visited me, Cassie, Kelly and Ellice for a guest post or Q&A on each of our blogs.
An extraordinary novel about a strong-willed woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight beside her husband in the Civil War, inspired by a real female soldier's letters home.
Cassie's Review // Q&A with Erin
Kelly's Review // Guest Post from Erin
Ellice's Review // Q&A with Erin
Later that evening, Erin hosted a Twitter chat (using #IShall) with the four of us as co-hosts to talk about all things historical fiction. She invited a few of her favorite historical fiction authors to join, and then we made a few final preparations. From giveaways to discussion questions, we wanted to make the chat a success!
The #IShall Author Participants
The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon | A reimagining of Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance in 1930 - as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.
The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen | Based on the remarkable true story of a freed African American slave who returned to Virginia at the onset of the Civil War to spy on the Confederates.
Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen | Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet from the perspective of Juliet's nurse.
Another Man's Bride by Ariel MacArran | Troubled by visions, Isabella flees King Henry's court when rumors swirl, only to be kidnapped by a man plotting rebelling against her Scottish cousin's husband, King James.
Revolutionary by Alex Myers | The story of Deborah Samson, the only woman known to have disguised herself as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War.
Crown of Dust by Mary Volmer | Disguised as a teenage boy, Alex's secret is threatened with discovery when she strikes gold during the California Gold Rush.
The #IShall Chat
I spent all Tuesday just waiting for it to finally be 9 p.m. so we could get started. None of us were sure how many people would participate. We'd tweeted a lot about it ahead of time and figured we'd have fun, even if we were mostly just talking amongst ourselves. I think it's safe to safe we were all shocked by just how many people joined the conversation. Erin is the kindest author, with a book very deserving of the attention, so THANKS Y'ALL!
So, how was the conversation? Author Ariel Lawhon summed it up perfectly:
I love this #IShall hist fic chat. It's like drinking from a fire hose.
— Ariel Lawhon (@ArielLawhon) September 2, 2014
Rather than recap everyone's answers (search #IShall on Twitter to see everything), I thought I'd share my thoughts for the main questions we discussed:
What draws you to historical fiction?
I love that historical fiction reminds me that the people in the past were REAL with dreams, goals, fears, etc. It makes a "stat" into a story. I've always loved history, but it's easy to forget that the people living in the past were just like you and me. Because I'm also a nerd, I'm drawn to historical fiction because I love to learn!
What are some historical fiction books that really nail voice?
All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
How much do you learn / want to learn from historical fiction?
I've somewhat answered this above, but I absolutely love to learn when I'm reading historical fiction. As author Mary Volmer mentioned in the chat, "I love to learn, but I don't want to be aware I'm learning. Historical fiction allows you to learn by immersion." That sums up my feelings perfectly! And I still need the emotion and to connect with the characters - that takes precedence over my desire to learn from historical fiction.
What are some historical fiction books with really vivid settings?
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Does a good historical fiction need a love story?
For me, it doesn't have to include a love story... but I sure do want it to! I loved when author Mary Volmer pointed out that "every story is a love story" because there is brotherly love, familial love, etc. I loved when author Alex Myers tweeted: "It's hard for me to demand something of fiction: the story needs what the story needs. But, a love story... who can say no?" I completely agree!
What are some historical fiction books that combine strong research and romance?
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
No Angel by Penny Vincenzi
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
What's your favorite era to read about?
I realized that I love books set during wartime, particularly the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, and WWII. But honestly, I'm just drawn to a good story so I'll happily read a book set during any era if it appeals to me in some way! I'm not very particular about when a book is set - although I am drawn to certain places.
What are the most important qualities you look for in a good historical fiction?
Characters will always be the most important aspect for me because I need to be invested in them to have that real pull to read a book. But the setting also matters more to me in historical fiction than it does in other genres since it has such an impact on the plot and the characters. Of course, engaging writing is the final thing I really look for in a historical fiction title. Books that combine all three? AMAZING.
What are some historical fiction books that re-imagine characters from other books?
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas
The #IShall Recommendations
This is what the recommended books list from the #IShall TwitterChat looks like... pic.twitter.com/U0RVI7d6qU
— Erin Lindsay McCabe (@ErinLindsMcCabe) September 3, 2014
Do you see that insane number of books listed? We had at least 114 books mentioned during the chat... HOLY COW! Erin was kind enough to put all of those books into a spreadsheet, which I then used to make an official Goodreads list. Here it is for you to explore at your leisure:
Note: When creating the list, I had to vote for the books to be added. Unfortunately, Goodreads limits you to a certain number of votes so I had to remove votes from some books in order to add more books to the list. That's why you'll see some books with a negative number of votes. So, be sure to vote for your favorites on the list!
If you didn't get to join, I'd love to hear your answers
to the questions we discussed during the chat!